BALTIMORE, MD – Sixth-seed Lincoln surged ahead from a back-and-forth battle with third-seed Virginia State to grab a 76-67 win in a CIAA Tournament men’s quarterfinal game here Thursday night.
The decisive stretch came in the second half with 11:43 left and Lincoln up 50-49. The Lions went on 11-2 run over the next three minutes to build the lead to 61-51 at the 8:36 mark. For all practical purposes, that run put the game away. VSU would whittle away at the lead, getting as close at 67-63 on a Zach Newkirk driving layup with 3:35 left. But that was close as the Trojans would come.
Lincoln 6-5 sophomore guard Bakir Cleveland delivered the dagger with a deep 3-pointer with 1:13 left that increased the Lions’ lead to 74-67.
Lincoln guards take over
The Lions’ guards were dominant finishing with a combined 63 of Lincoln’s 76-point total. Cleveland finished with a game-high 24 points, draining all five of his 3-point attempts. Six-foot all-CIAA point guard Korey Williams added 21 points and tied for the team-high with 7 rebounds and added four assists. Six-one sophomore Reggie Hudson added 18 points, hitting 11 of 14 free throws, and also pulling down seven boards.
The trio combined to shoot 9 of 11 from 3-point range. The Lions were 9 of 12 (75%) from behind the arc for the game.
Lincoln shot 10 of 18 from the field (55.6%) in the second half.
VSU (17-11) was led by 21 points and 12 rebounds from all-CIAA forward Terrence Hunter-Whitfield. Newkirk finished with 13 points and Francis Fitzgerald had 12. The Trojans shot just 4 of 21 (19.0%) from 3-point range. They were 6 of 34 (17.6 %) from the field in the second half.
Lincoln takes the rubber match
The team’s split in two regular season contests that were each decided by single digits. It was not much different this time. Both teams built leads only to see the other stage comebacks. Williams had 10 of his 13 first-half points early as Lincoln led by eight in the first half, at 15-7.
Down 22-16 at the 9:32 mark, Fitzgerald canned a 3-pointer to pull the Trojans within 22-21. It was part of a 13-0 run over a 4:21 span that saw VSU surge ahead 29-22. Lincoln fought back to tie the game at 29 and at 31. Hunter-Whitfield’s bucket in the lane just before the halftime buzzer sent VSU into the break with a 36-33 lead.
Hunter-Whitfield had 10 points and Newkirk had nine to lead VSU in the first half.
The Lions (15-14), who had an 82-50 opening round win over J. C. Smith Wednesday, advance to Friday’s 6 p.m. semifinals where they will face second-seeded Fayetteville State.